Satirical verse: UKIP Brexit if you want to

As my Brexit-inspired satire continues, here is my mini-glossary for those reading this post outside Great Britain.

UKIP stands for the UK Independence Party, which is a Eurosceptic and right-wing populist political party in Great Britain. The party strongly opposes immigration, pledging to reduce it to zero within five years. Incidentally, the wife (alluded to below) of the party’s former leader (who is a great fan of President Trump) is German.

Brexit refers to the British exit from the European Union, narrowly voted for in the 2016 EU membership referendum. Brexit has bitterly divided the country, and even the government cannot seem to agree what sort of Brexit it wants. Needless to say, Europe is baffled …  

 

We don’t want no immigration

To pollute this brilliant nation;

We were once the purest race

Which this Mother Earth did grace

(Sorry, there is one correction:

German wives are an exception),

 

But the EU plots and schemes

To extinguish our dreams

About being alien-free

In this land of ours – see?

Our challenge is immense –

We must mount a bold defence.

 

When we seal our porous border

We’ll restore all law and order,

And, to pick our fruit and veg,

We will summon good old Reg

(He is 80 – did we mention? –

This will help him boost his pension).

 

We will stop most foreign aid

And engage in global trade

Beyond EU neighbourhood

(North Korea would be good),

Plus, in line with our agendum,

We will rule by referendum.

 

Also (you’ll be filled with glee),

We will let you park for free*

When you do your weekly shop

(We don’t reckon it’s a sop:

As an ordinary Brit,

You’ll be rather badly hit**).

 

Even if our gut gets busted,

We want to be done and dusted

By the end of next year – max;

See how neatly all this stacks?

(We can – by all indicators –

Trust our clever negotiators.)

 

To take charge of our laws,

We must rally to the cause

With a zealous incantation:

“We are here to save our nation,

And, in Donald’s dazzling vein,

We’ll make Britain great again!”

 

*For at least 30 minutes

**In your pocket

 

PS

 

Wanna know – that’s by the way –

What folk Googled the next day***?

“What’s this construct called EU?”

You are laughing? It is true;

Still, we say: “You know the score,

That’s**** what you have voted for.”

 

***After the 2016 referendum on Britain’s EU membership

****Whatever that is; if the government still (at the beginning of 2018) can’t agree about what sort of Brexit it wants (hard, soft or anything in-between), you can jolly well make up your own wish list and announce that this is exactly what you have voted for – hey ho!

 

93 – Mini-rant: Dead survivors?

Having been greatly distracted by two momentous events, Brexit and the American election, I’ve been very remiss with this blog. And, let’s face it, language misdemeanours, however diverting, pale into insignificance with what’s going on in the world. But having stumbled across this snippet, widely broadcast by the British media, I’m unable to resist a mini-rant. The revelation came courtesy of an eminent foreign correspondent, who commented on a catastrophic plane crash thus.

There is little hope of finding survivors alive.

Although overcome with an overwhelming sadness, I nevertheless wondered whether there might be some dead survivors – an obvious (to me, at least) interpretation of this tautological statement. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, tautology – saying the same thing twice in different words – is a stylistic fault which is quite common, but the venerable BBC and its reporters might be expected to be above such lapses. What the correspondent should have said is, of course, this.

 There is little hope of finding anybody alive.

Or this.

 There is little hope of finding any survivors.

86 – Grammar shot: Tautology (From my book: Who’s Put Rat into Bureaucrat? Please see the previous post)

“This tautology – could you tell me a bit more about it, Ali?” asked Violet. We had adjourned to the foyer, where, to my surprise, brand-new refreshments had been laid on, with chocolate cake, carrot cake, lemon cake, cheesecake, cupcakes and flapjacks attempting to subvert the government’s healthy-eating offensive.

“Tautology is where you repeat a word or statement needlessly or re-state an idea in different words; it always involves redundancy because the repetition is unnecessary. As I said to Gavina, widget and gadget making is always practical – have you ever heard of theoretical widget and gadget making?”

“No, never.”

“Precisely. Tautology is a fault of style, but it’s actually quite common; there’s plenty of it in FART’s publications.”

“Can you remember any examples?”

“How could I possibly forget? ‘Acceptable performance in this unit will be the satisfactory achievement of the Summative Standards.’”

“What’s tautological?”

“Satisfactory achievement – have you ever heard of unsatisfactory achievement?”

“No, never.”

“That’s why we should omit satisfactory.  But this sentence is illogical anyway because performance is not achievement.”

“So what would you say?”

“‘Acceptable performance in this unit will be confirmed by the achievement of the Summative Standards.’ And how about this one: ‘This will improve students’ learning experience positively across the curriculum’?”

“An improvement is always positive?”

“Of course. So?”

“I’d remove ‘positively’.”

“Absolutely. And this one: ‘This will provide a positive incentive for students to improve their literacy and numeracy’?”

“It’s similar: an incentive is always positive.”

“Spot on, Violet. There is a lot of tautology about: collaborate together, good benefit, mutual cooperation, new beginning, new innovation, past history, recall back, revert back, share the same, unite together, successfully give up, unsuccessfully fail, positively improve/ support/ enhance, Morag’s pre-planningthere are literally countless examples.”

“But we are always saying past history, Ali.”

“I bet you are, but history is always past – have you ever heard of future history?”

“Never.”

“Precisely. And I bet you are also saying forward planning. 

“All the time.”

“But planning is always forward, isn’t it? When did you last plan backwards?”

“Never.”

“My point exactly.”

76 – Grammar shot: Tautology

It is said that Britain’s middle class starts the day against the soundtrack of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme – the most influential early-morning purveyor of news and current- affairs reportage. If I’m sentient at that time of day, and not otherwise engaged, I also tune in. A few days ago, the commentary covered the ill-fated American adventure at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, with the presenter hitting us with this:

“The planned overthrow of Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs was a fiasco that failed.”

Now, have you ever heard of a fiasco that succeeded? No, me neither – simply because a fiasco means ‘a complete failure’. This is why this statement is tautological.  Tautology is the use of a word or words which repeat an idea unnecessarily. It is thus a stylistic fault involving redundancy. What the presenter should have said was this:

The planned overthrow of Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs was a complete fiasco.

The planned overthrow of Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs was a venture that failed.

Tautology is surprisingly common – even among educated adults. Let me give you an example from A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by four professors of English, for whom it is an uncharacteristic lapse, their sizeable Grammar being probably the most authoritative source of information about how the English language is organised.

“The wording should not be misunderstood in some sense not intended by the speaker.”

How often do we actually intend to misunderstand messages? Well, it does happen, but that’s not what was meant by the four linguistic luminaries, who should have written this:

The wording should not be interpreted in some sense not intended by the speaker.

Tautology may also result from using adjectives alongside their synonyms. This is usually done to amplify a characteristic but always backfires. The four examples given below come from reputable sources, including the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) and Department for Education and Employment (DfEE). In each quote, one of the two highlighted adjectives is tautological and should, therefore, be removed.

“There is evidence of effective action on the main key issues.”  (Handbook for Inspecting Primary and Nursery Schools by OFSTED)

“(…) to understand features of formal official language (…). “ (Grammar for Writing by DfEE)

“(…) children spend introductory time with the reception class on a regular weekly basis.” (OFSTED inspection report)

“We think it is inconceivable that Spain should demand our sovereignty as the trade-off for having decent civilised relations.” (The Guardian)

Another type of tautology is when people use adjectives which express characteristics inherent in the nouns they modify. Examples include positive benefits (are there negative benefits?), a new innovation (is there an old innovation?), an unexpected surprise (is there an expected surprise?) and a negative prejudice (is there a positive prejudice?) Such tautological usage is just as common as the deployment of synonymous adjectives. The examples quoted below also come courtesy of educated adults.

“He is then ready to return to reality, and welcome its positive benefits [WRITE: benefits].” (Grammar for Writing by DfEE)

“Oramo said yesterday that his appointment had come as ‘an unexpected surprise[WRITE: complete surprise].” (The Daily Telegraph)

“Cut research and you slow new drug innovation [WRITE: innovation].” (The Sunday Times)

“One misconception is that positive self-esteem [WRITE: EITHER self-esteem OR positive self-image] exists independently of skills and abilities.” (The Independent)

So mind how you go: tautology is a trap ensnaring even those whom we might reasonably expect to be able to spot and avoid it.